Cam's Eye Review: TOKYO GORE POLICE (2008)

A young girl, Ruka (Eihi Shiina), is one of many witnesses to the assassination of her father (Keisuke Horibe), a traditional policeman rallying others against the privatization of a police force in Tokyo in the near future. At the same time, the assassination of the father's killer leaves a young genetic scientist (Itsuji Itao) scarred. Both youngsters eventually grow up into becoming more than they realize in a land controlled by the now privatized Tokyo Police Corporation to protect the law-abiding innocent. But not all is as it seems within its walls.

This movie is made from Tokyo Shock Cinema, owned by the American entertainment corporation, Media Blasters in New York. Tokyo Shock has been around since the late 50s and had seen many film productions over the decades. It came into its own style of "shock and awe" by being a live-action anime playground. But even the eponymous Media Blasters was hit in the anime crash of 2008 (as this film was produced), laying off 60% of its workforce leaving five or six members at the helm. As of 2014, despite numerous rumors of closing, it still manages to survive -- heavily on its legacy titles and hentai releases.

The film is set in a Japan that is rocked with unusual crimes. A person known only as "Key Man" (Itsuji Itao) has created a genetic virus that mutates humans into terrible creatures called "Engineers" that sprout biological weapons from any injury. The now privatized Tokyo Police Corporation has been dealt the task of eliminating this threat and a special task force of officers called "Engineer Hunters" are created. Unlike the average and traditional police force, these Engineer Hunters are a private militarized force that utilize everything at their disposal to maintain law and order. And I do mean everything that is brutal - violence and torture in its varied forms. It becomes a mish-mash of RoboCop meets Judge Dredd but without the obligatory humor and justice one comes to expect.

Aiding the police task force is Engineer Hunter Ruka (Eihi Shiina), a brooding and seemingly cold woman who is very good at her job in killing these engineered humans. While helping the task force, she is on the hunt for the killer of her father who was murdered in broad daylight by a mysterious and black-hooded assassin. Receiving a new case to hunt down Key Man, she becomes helpless as she encounters him and becomes infected by his inserting a key-shaped tumor into her scar-riddled left forearm before disappearing.

Ruka's childhood was touched on briefly as we are witness to how her own psyche was scarred by her own mother (voiced by Dorothy Fahn) who self-emolated and her father was desperately trying to get her to stop and seek help. All too brief and not much to go on with this plot point, Ruka's own self-emolations reflect another aspect of her past that she keeps to herself. As Ruka recovers from her association with Key Man, being told there were no anomalous tumors inside, she is cleared for duty.

Taking a break at the Bar Independant with an orange juice, Ruka is comforted by the owner, played by the compassionate and understanding Ikuko Sawada, whose character is not named. There is a special chemistry between the two and this is not explored fully but only hinted at with the two women. The Bar Independant becomes Ruka's sanctuary from the day-to-day goings on in her life and it would have been a bit better had we seen a more fully realized coupling than just two intimate moments where there was a birthday gift exchange of a simple pearl bracelet and the owner's covering Ruka's tired frame with a blanket at the bar counter.

We are then introduced to one of Ruka's police colleagues who finds himself wanting a fix of speed. Winding up instead at a brothel full of Engineers, he is used as an instrument of destruction by Key Man to shoot up the task force and main precinct, forcing the Police Chief, played by Yukihide Benny, to order a city-wide crackdown on Engineers and lets loose the police to indiscriminately kill anyone "suspected" of being one.

Ruka then receives a lead investigating the mysterious origins of Key Man by the morgue's resident Medical Examiner and, after a long list of places Ruka goes to, finally confronts him. Now, as traditional stories go with suspects, they are usually taken into custody and interrogated -- this is the future we're talking about here and there is no due process in this film. And the laws of physics don't even apply. My suspension of disbelief becomes cracked at certain moments where fighting these Engineers are concerned and it becomes laughable with the copious amounts of blood and gore that this film rates an R. Throughout the film we are also witness to faux "commercials" where products that would never be made would be popular. Interspersed with Tokyo Police Corporation's propaganda, of course, like RoboCop's OCP.

But Ruka and Key Man sit and have a chat, where he reveals that his own father was a sniper-for-hire and was paid to assasinate Ruka's father just to keep his family out of poverty and to fund his son's education as a scientific researcher studying the genetics of violent criminals. The researcher then injects himself with the DNA of many criminals to vow vengeance upon the man who killed his sniper father: the Police Chief. After Ruka then slices Key Man in half, she remembers the eyes of the real killer of her father and Key Man's father.

On her way back to the precinct, Ruka witnesses the police brutalizing civilians accused of being Engineers. When her bar owner friend is drawn and quartered in a particularly disgusting scene, Ruka finally shows her anger and emotion as her left arm mutates into an alien-like head with razor-sharp claws before beheading the gleeful officers behind the execution. During Ruka's rampage she is shot in the right eye and her body quickly replaces it with a cybernetic one. She confronts the police chief, who admits to her father's assassination, but explains that he raised her to become the perfect Hunter as some twisted atonement. The death of the Police Chief is bloody, gory, and gave me cause to laugh as this is only a movie and never takes itself or the material seriously. It's live-action anime at its best and the sub-plot commentary of privatizing anything becomes disastrous without some measure of checks and balances. Ruka becomes the checks and balances in this story, retaining a sense of self-worth, self-identity, and a semi-completeness of purpose to actually protect humanity and be the "new traditional cop" like her father was.

As the movie ends, we see Key Man alive once more and walking off with one of his test subjects, leaving open the possibility of having another potential Tokyo Gore Police in the works.

I have misgivings when it comes to Tokyo Shock. It's not shocking to me. It doesn't make me uncomfortable, aside from some genuinely gross and hilarious over-the-top moments like the showdown between the Police Chief and Ruka. Even the fight between Ruka and the Medical Examiner had me at a facepalm moment. Do I recommend this as a pure live-action anime wannabe? Sure. Is it entertaining? Mildly. But I got a little bored in moments where it could have been re-edited and tighter in story, especially where Ruka's self-emolation is concerned and the moments with her friend and potential love interest with the bar owner that had a lot of promise. It's visually dark and disturbing with dark-ish comedy (there's a literal "golden shower" moment I found amusing).

Directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura. Produced by Satoshi Nakamura, Yoko Hayama, and Yoshinori Chiba. Written by Kengo Kaji, Sayako Nakoshi, and Yoshihiro Nishimura.

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